The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were scheduled for this summer, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the games have been postponed for a year. However, training continues for Virgin Islands athletes who were slated to compete at the Olympics. Among the VI athletes who qualified for the games is long jumper Chantel Malone. She talked to The BVI Beacon about her career and training for the games during the pandemic.
Tell me briefly about your athletic career.
I started running in Althea Scatliffe Primary School, but I definitely would say I took track and field seriously once I got into high school under the guidance of Mr. Winston Potter and Mrs.[Angeleta] Bernard as a part of the Top Notch Track Club. I was offered a full track and field scholarship to the University of Texas and became a multi-time All-American. Once I graduated from college in 2012 I competed professionally and have been competing professionally since then. I would say some of my highlights of my career has been medaling at the Carifta games at 13 years old competing against girls that were under 17; being a finalist at world junior and senior championships, commonwealth finalist, CAC Games gold medalist, Pan Am Games Gold medalist.
What was the qualifying mark for you to make the [Tokyo 2020] Olympics? What meet did it happen at?
My qualifying mark would have been 6.90 metres that I accomplished during the UGA invitational.
What accomplishment are you the most proud of?
I am most proud of my Pan Ams Gold medal. Not only because of the history behind it, but because of the trials that I endured prior to the competition. There was a lot going on personally with my contract and shoes, so mentally I was in a really bad place. I was proud to be able to put that all aside and compete despite all that was going on.
How much training goes into qualifying for the Olympics? Give me details?
There is so much that goes into training for the Olympics. From grueling workouts on the track and in the gym, to the way you eat and sleep. A regular day looks like: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. track practice depending on whether it’s a technical or running sessions.
• 2 p.m.- 4 p.m. weight room (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
• Go home to do the recovery
• Eat dinner
I try to get a massage and chiropractic care every week. As an elite athlete it is definitely very important for you to make sure your body is in the right shape and health to perform optimally every day at practice and competitions.
Describe your social distancing situation due to the coronavirus? Are you with family? Hobbies?
For me the social distancing isn’t so much of a problem. I am normally at home watching movies, reading or just listening to music. My parents are back in the BVI and my siblings and cousins are in Orlando, so right now I am by myself.
What were your initial thoughts when you heard the Olympics were cancelled due to the virus?
Initially, I was disappointed because I have been working really hard towards competing at the games. However, as I had some time to reflect, I realised that it is for the best interest of everyone involved. From the construction workers, cleaners, organisers, fans and athletes. It was a big deal for me that our safety was being put first. Normally in these situations politics override everything and the fact that they chose to put our safety first is great. Aside from the obvious health risk, I think postponing the games makes it fair for all the athletes that don’t have the same freedom or opportunities to train.
How has your training been interrupted due to the coronavirus outbreak? How do you stay in touch with your trainers and coach?
Since the outbreak, we haven’t been able to lift weights which is a big deal for your power. Thankfully, we still had access to a track to do some running workouts, but now that they have the shelter in place order we have decided to take a week of active recovery to be safe. I still communicate with my coach via phone just to see what the plan is moving forward.
Are you going to take this opportunity to take a break or is training full speed at ahead?
The plan is to continue training even though we may not be able to compete for the rest of the season.
Do you think the postponement of the Olympics by a year will help or hinder the BVI’s chances at medaling?
I think the extra year will enhance our chances of medaling at the Olympics if we use the time wisely and stay focused.
Who are some of your mentors/heroes/inspiration?
I don’t think I have any one mentor. I am drawn to anyone that has a good mindset, will to win and does things to help/inspire others. I have been a big fan of Kobe Bryant’s mamba mentality.
What are some of the challenges being an Olympic athlete? Financially?
With everything it takes to be an elite athlete and compete amongst the world’s best it gets pretty expensive. From coaching fees, to different treatments (chiropractor, massages, acupuncture), eating right, travelling to different meets. The list goes on. Most people only see the success or failures on the track, but they don’t realise that there is so much more that goes into being an Olympic or elite athlete in general.
Would you like to say anything to your supporters who were looking forward to watching you perform at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
I want them to know that the goal is still the same: Deterred, not denied. We will still go out there and represent the BVI with everything that we have and make our country proud. During this time it’s important for us to stay safe and do all that we can do to continue preparing for the games. I also want everyone at home to do the same. I know being at home can drive you crazy or make you comfortable but every day you should do something for your health. Keep moving. Journal for your mental health. Find ways to be thankful despite all the bad things going on in the world.
Interview conducted and edited by Todd VanSickle.